US: New standardization initiative could save billions for solar users

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The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has received some $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to manage stakeholder engagement, strategy and program evaluation for the Orange Button initiative, a new program aimed at simplifying and standardizing solar energy data.

The Energy Department selected four organizations – SGIP, SunSpec Alliance, kWh Analytics and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – to lead the Orange Button initiative and to streamline the way the solar industry establishes and manages data.

The initiative is meant to help industry stakeholders exchange quality data and make solar transactions more efficient. In order to boost solar bankability, the four organizations will work together to create a widely adoptable, unified data standard for the solar industry.

Access to high quality data affects more than half the total price of a residential PV system, according to SGIP. As a result, the organization says a robust data infrastructure for the solar industry is necessary for the “rapid and seamless data exchanges between producers and consumers of solar data.”

The Orange Button initiative aims to reduce transaction inefficiencies and improve market transparency in a self-sustaining manner by creating solar data standards, open marketplaces and tools for the private sector to access data.

“This collaborative effort can help to drive down costs associated with solar projects, help project managers get better financing terms, and make investing in solar more compelling,” said SGIP President and CEO Sharon Allan. “Leaders of the Green Button Initiative demonstrated that a cross-sector, industry-wide initiative can be successful, and SGIP is well positioned to take a similar approach to engaging stakeholders and deploying more solar assets.”

Allan added that the industry-led process would “spur the creation and adoption of de facto standards, and ensure their rapid transition into the daily operations of the broader solar market.”

A standard, robust solar industry data infrastructure will allow banks and financiers to more easily analyze solar assets and integrate more solar into their portfolios, according to SGIP.

“We believe a reduction in the cost of capital as a result of better access to solar data will reduce risk and could result in savings of nearly $9 billion over the next 10 years to solar users,” said Aaron Smallwood, SGIP director of technology operations.